The Washington Redskins will present a revamped defensive line for Sunday's key NFC East game against the New York Giants, partly out of choice and possibly out of necessity.
Anthony Cook will take over for Kenard Lang, who has been benched for inconsistent play at left defensive end. Cook impressed coaches with his physical, aggressive play last week against Philadelphia, when he took over at left end while Lang slid to right end in relief of Marco Coleman, who left the game in the first quarter with a sprained spine. Cook finished with two tackles for a loss and three solo tackles.
At left defensive tackle, Dan Wilkinson is probable after he sprained his back in the loss to Philadelphia. Wilkinson missed a second day of practice yesterday and went to see a chiropractor.
"It's a heck of a lot better today than it was yesterday," Wilkinson said. "I think I'll be able to go Sunday." Trainer Bubba Tyer said he expected Wilkinson to practice today.
Doug Brown lined up at Wilkinson's spot yesterday, alongside Cook, and Brown likely will start if Wilkinson can't play.
Pass-rushing specialist Ndukwe Kalu seems sufficiently recovered from his broken foot, suffered against Arizona in Game 5, to resume his spot role on third downs.
The line's reshuffling represents the most significant change to the Redskins' under-performing defense this season.
The defensive line was projected to be a strength during training camp, with all four members former first-round draft picks. But the unit has been ineffective in stopping either the run or the pass.
Ranked 31st overall in the NFL, the Redskins' defense is 30th against both the run and the pass. Washington is surrendering an average of 383.8 yards per game--135.2 yards rushing and 248.6 yards passing.
Though Lang (6 feet 4, 227 pounds) is second on the team with five sacks, Coach Norv Turner said he has been inconsistent lately. According to defensive line coach Rubin Carter, coaches talked to Lang about his performance a few weeks ago. After seeing little progress, they decided to give Cook (6-3, 295) his spot.
"Kenard has played well at times," Turner said, "but he hasn't given us the consistency we need. Anthony deserves a chance."
Lang said it was not his place to second-guess the decision.
"Not everybody's going to be perfect during the whole season," Lang said, "but to me, that's telling me I'm the only one not playing consistent on the whole defense. . . If I'm the cause, I'll be the scapegoat."
Defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield said he didn't expect the line to miss a beat with Cook in the mix. "I don't think it's going to change the feel or anything on the defensive line because last week it showed he fit right in," Stubblefield said.
Wide receiver Michael Westbrook (broken right wrist) has been upgraded to probable for Sunday. The size of his cast, which covers his right forearm and thumb, was also scaled back about two inches.